Monday, 30 October 2017

Inquiry 2018

As the year draws closer and I reflect on 2017, it is time to consider what aspects of my practice I wish to work on next year.

This year I completed an intervention and dissertation on mathematics; specifically using differentiated approaches to accelerate the learning of all of my students in a mixed-ability setting. I learnt so much from this intervention and it has altered much of my mathematics pedagogy and use of my class site. 

However, next year I would like to focus on writing, as this is another area of the curriculum that some of my learners struggle with. As I will be teaching a year 7 and 8 class, I must ensure that my teaching will support the students to transition between intermediate and high school. It is also vital that I facilitate accelerated learning so that they can cope with the literary demands of college.

I would like to investigate the use of text analysis, peer and self assessment to make the connection between reading and writing explicit. In this intervention, I intend to start the week with a text analysis. The learners would first respond to the text as readers to gain an understanding of it, before I guide them to analyse a specific aspect of the text as writers. Smith (1983), states that effective writers are able to write like readers, and effective readers read like writers. That is, the students notice the techniques that writers use when reading and write with their audience in mind.
This analysis would involve a great deal of discussion, to provide scaffolding for the learners. These text responses would be shared on the students blogs as a short text or video. They would then select elements of the text to use in their own writing in the week, before discussing their ideas for writing with one another because "reading and writing float on a sea of talk" (Briton,  1970, p.164).

The students would self and peer assess during the week against a rubric that we would co-construct. At the end of the week we would analyse a student-created text just as we had at the start of the week.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Where it all begins

As I have always been interested in teaching intermediate school students, I have not had much experience teaching younger children. My lowest practicum placement was a year two class, however the learners worked at a year three and four level. I know it is really important for me to develop an understanding of the junior school and my learners experiences when they first came to the classroom. I also need to develop an understanding of how educators support students as they begin to learn to read, write and count, as I will teach students who need this support at my level.

I have decided to spend some more time with my buddy class (year 1) who are achieving at a range of levels. I will be taking my class to participate in buddy reading/writing with these learners every couple of weeks and I will spend some of my release time working with these learners.


This morning I observed our reading recovery teacher, Mrs Kelly teach a writing lesson to teach the learners about penguins. After reading a shared book about penguins and having a discussion about them, she co-constructed an acrostic poem with the class. I chose to work with a student who was learning how to form their letters and I found it incredibly interesting to see how much challenge she faced just by copying the words on the board! She found it hard to form the letters and there were some letters that she needed help to identify and sound out. It was really helpful to watch the teacher interact with her to see some of the strategies that she had used.

I will continue to work with these learners and to spend time with the junior school teachers, so that I develop my ability to cater to the needs of all of my students.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Mindfulness

Today my class engaged in their first mindfulness session, facilitated by Ara Simmons and Chris Bush. I am really privileged to work with these ladies and to carry out the 'Pause, Breathe, Smile' programme over the course of the term. While I have run a few mindfulness activities before, seeing it put together as a full session was really helpful for me to learn more about the way that it can be taught.

After some introductions and a quick chat about mindfulness and being present in the moment, we started with a short breathing exercise using a Tibetan singing bowl. This was a hit with my learners (and myself) as we all felt relaxed listening to the bell ring. We then completed a mindful eating activity where we looked at, smelt, held and tasted a piece of chocolate. We discussed how eating the chocolate mindfully made it taste different to some of us. Finally we took part in a guided meditation and shared our thoughts about the way we felt during this time.

I was really impressed with my class and how well they took to the session. It had a huge calming effect on my learners and we had a lovely reading lesson afterwards, where we all completed our allocated tasks. Most of the learners noted feeling calm, relaxed and happy during this time and I hope to recreate this environment during short mindfulness activities over the course of the week.

Of course, it great for me to have the chance to be calm and present with the class; positive reinforcement came easily and there was no need to 'growl' at bad behaviour. However, it made me realise how well the children responded to the slow calm commands made by Chris, Ara and the videos that we used. At times I can be quite excitable when I teach and at times I can talk quite quickly to my learners, which I would like to work on. I think these mindfulness sessions will support me to slow my voice and to teach more calmly; I will be considering how Chris and Ara achieve this as the term goes on.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Future Focussed?

This year I have ensured to cover careers education, as I understand the importance of providing these opportunities for my learners. The Ministry of Education explain that students need to be aware of different career pathways and the knowledge and skills that are required to follow various career paths. It can also support students to be more motivated about school and higher education.

This term I have done a lot more work in this area than I had previously and I introduced a range of occupations to my learners, from architecture to engineering to working for the police. As a school we have invited lots of different individuals and organisations in to talk to our students about their careers.

I have found that this has had a positive impact on my learners, as they are far more aware of the different avenues that they could pursue. I found that they particularly learnt a lot from the engineer that I put them in contact with. He reported the importance of maths and physics for engineering, but expressed that he was not a strong writer at school.  A lot of my students could relate to this and found this quite meaningful. He was also very impressed with the students ICT and the fact that they were learning to code.

This caused the students to realise that they are quite privileged to belong to a cluster of schools that promotes the use of ICT, different media and programming skills, as it is not offered in all schools yet. We had a large discussion regarding this and they began to identify some of the other special skills that they have learnt so far, such as movie making and editing.

I look forward to hearing from past students in the future and learning which career path they decided to choose.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Teaching as Inquiry

This term my teaching inquiry has been focussed on eliciting rich discussion from my learners and supporting them to justify their answers. I have been focussing on this across the curriculum and I have found new ways to promote discussion in different areas.

In reading I have been using a mixture of reciprocal and guided reading all year. My students are now able to follow the reciprocal reading cycle in their groups without my support, and they can engage in great discussion. However, I have used guided reading alongside this to probe the students for deeper responses; to make inferences and judgements about the text. I also encourage my students to use the text to justify their answers during this time.

In writing I have utilised peer feedback to get my students discussing their writing more often. I also use language experiences and text analysis at the start of the year, so that they discuss their ideas before they put them to paper. The use of text analysis has been able to generate some good discussion between learners, as the students discuss their interpretations in small groups before sharing their ideas with a larger group.


I have also started writing short stories for my class, so they can watch my writing process and offer me feedback and editing advice. My students must then interpret the story that I have written, as I always leave a hidden message in between the lines. This has been a wonderful way to support their inferencing skills, to make judgements and to determine the authors purpose for writing.

In maths I have been using the problem solving approach which requires a lot of discussion between the learners, as they must work in groups to solve a word problem. To support the students to improve their ability to discuss their thoughts, I have began to use talking frames with them. I believe that this will have a great impact on their discussion skills.





Sunday, 27 August 2017

Stepping Up

Like most new teachers, I tend to find school trips pretty stressful. I take frequent head counts of the children, have a bit of a korero beforehand about my expectations and how the day will run and I keep my tamariki close to me at all times. However, up until this point my school trips have been pretty simple to manage. I have often been accompanied by several other classes (and teachers) and I often only have to guide my students through an enclosed and controlled area, such as a museum or theatre.

That all changed this week as I escorted the year sevens from my class on a week long camp to the Bay of Islands. This camp would involve kayaking, spending the night in the bush and visiting numerous locations. The thought of this was pretty daunting and I even had a few nightmares in the week leading up to the camp! I was all too aware of the headlines about disasters that had occurred during school camps. I was also a little worried that my students would begin to forget some of the things that they had just learnt, such as the maths concepts I had taught during the previous weeks.
                             My students practicing their skit about Bush Survival

However, as soon as our first activity had begun I realized how wrong I had been to dread the camp - it was amazing! My students were able to learn so much about New Zealand history from the museums and tours that we attended. They had numerous new experiences and learnt skills such as bushcraft that they would remember for life. I saw so much value in every activity and had so much fun, when Friday came around I would have been happy to stay on (despite being exhausted)!
A huge challenge for me was sleeping in the shelter we built
For one thing, I managed to include a lot of mini lessons over the course of the camp. As we spent time every day travelling around the Bay of Islands, I spent about 15 - 30 minutes over all each day to facilitate a mini maths lesson in the car. As my students are really enjoying the maths at the moment they actually began to ask for this on our journeys and we managed to work through the learning that I had left for our year sixes back at school. I also spent about 10 minutes with my group each day writing about the places that we had visited and putting them on a timeline. This supported them to build a conceptual framework around the topic and illustrated the connections between the places that we visited. After dinner we reflected on the experiences we had, set goals and filled in a PMIS chart about the activities.
I even got to go back over a water safety lesson that I taught in term one - we got in the huddle and HELP positions, skulled, treaded water and swam a distance.



Another really important aspect of the camp was that I developed really strong relationships with my learners and they got to know one another a lot better. All of my year sevens worked so well together and my group illustrated really effective and supportive teamwork. Some of my students who don't usually work together had the opportunity to do so and it was so lovely to hear them remark on this on our final night, stating what they did not know about the others in such a positive way.

One aspect of my teaching philosophy is that I seek to support my students to develop an understanding of themselves, their beliefs and their perspectives about different matters. I could definitely see my students learning new things about themselves on this camp,be it that they love kayaking, or that they discovered a new food that they like, or discovering deeper things, like how to help a friend in trouble, to be resilient or to try new things, even if they did not think that they would enjoy them.In particular I saw some of our Māori tamariki take more pride in their culture and using more of their language.

I am so glad to have had this experience and I know that I will draw upon my learning here for the many camps to come.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Honoring the Treaty

In a few weeks time my learners and I will be heading off to Russell for a school camp focused on the Treaty of Waitangi and the history of New Zealand. To ensure that my learners can connect with this topic, we have been studying history and the Treaty in our inquiry lessons. 

 

This was the first time that my learners had investigated the Treaty in depth and many of them were quite surprised by what they learnt. In particular, they were startled by the fact that there were two versions of the Treaty and that the land wars occurred shortly after the Treaty was signed. As we investigated the clauses of the Treaty, there was much discussion around how it is used today. Many of my learners thought that it would contain laws much like those that we follow today. This lead onto a discussion about the partnership between Māori and Pakeha and the importance of learning Te Reo  Māori and about Māori tikanga.



As a class we reflected on the fact that we have a weekly Te Reo lesson, sing waiata, discuss whakatauki and learn a little about Māori customs or tikanga. However, I discovered that there are many gaps in my learners knowledge; some were unaware what a hongi was for example. To remedy this, I planned some lessons that would cover different areas of Māoridom. We looked at powhiri and marae protocol for example and made traditional Māori bread (Takakau).

                                      
I have written before about taking extra university papers in order to learn some Te Reo and the fact that I seek to use the langauge and Māori resources wherever possible. However, by studying this unit my learners have become more aware of the importance of using Te Reo and they are beginning to ask more about Māori tikanga. Despite having these conversations before, I believe that they lacked the knowledge to truly connect with what I was trying to stress. I am now really looking forward to the camp and to watch my students as they engage in authentic experiences around the Treaty of Waitangi.